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§ 21. Arian Christianity among the Goths and other German Tribes.


I. Editions of the remains of the Gothic Bible Version of Wulfila: by H. C. von der Gabelenz and J. Loebe, Leipz. 1836–46; Massmann, 1855–57; E. Bernhardt, 1875 (with the Greek text and notes); and Stamm, 7th ed. 1878, and in fac-simile by Uppström, 1854–1868. See also Ulphilae Opera, and Schaff, Compan. to Gr. Test., p. 150.

Ulphilae Opera (Versio Bibliorum Gothica), in Migne’s Patrolog., Tom. XVIII. pp. 462–1559 (with a Gothic glossary).

II. G. Waitz: Ueber das Leben und die Lehre des Ulfila. Hanover 1840.

W. Bessel: Das Leben des Ulfilas und die Bekehrung der Gothen zum Christenthum. Götting. 1860.

W. Krafft: l.c. I. 213–326; and De Fontibus Ulfilae Arianismi. 1860.

A. Helfferich: Der west-gothische Arianismus und die spanische Ketzergeschichte. Berlin 1860.


We now proceed to the conversion of the Continental Teutons, especially those of France and Germany.

The first wholesale conversions of the Germanic or Teutonic race to the Christian religion took place among the Goths in the time when Arianism was at the height of power in the East Roman empire. The chief agents were clerical and other captives of war whom the Goths in their raids carried with them from the provinces of the Roman empire and whom they learned to admire and love for their virtue and supposed miraculous power. Constantine the Great entered into friendly relations with them, and is reported by Eusebius and Socrates to have subjected them to the cross of Christ. It is certain that some ecclesiastical organization was effected at that time. Theophilus, a bishop of the Goths, is mentioned among the fathers of the Council of Nicaea, 325.

The real apostle of the Goths is Ulifilas,9797    The usual spelling. Better: Wulfila, i.e. Wölflein, Little Wolf. who was consecrated bishop in 348 at Constantinople, and died there in 381, aged seventy years. He invented the Gothic alphabet, and translated the Bible into Gothic, but was an Arian, or rather a semi-Arian, who regarded Christ as a secondary God and the Holy Spirit merely as a sanctifying power.9898    In his testamentary creed, which he always held (semper sic credidi), he confesses faith “in God the Father and in his only begotten Son our Lord and God, and in the Holy Spirit as virtutem illuminantem et sanctificantem nec Deum nec Dominum sed ministrum Christi.” Comp. Krafft, l.c. 328 sqq.

Arianism spread with great rapidity among the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, and Vandals. This heretical form of Christianity, however, was more a matter of accident than preference and conviction among the Germans, and soon gave way to orthodoxy when they became acquainted with it. When Alaric, the famous king of the Visigoths, captured Rome (410), he treated the city with marked leniency, which Augustin justly traced to the influence of the Christian faith even in heretical form. The Vandals, the rudest among the Teutonic tribes, made an exception; they fiercely persecuted the orthodox Christians in North Africa (since 430) and desolated this once flourishing field of the Catholic Church, the scene of the immortal labors of St. Augustin. Their kingdom was destroyed under Justinian (534), but the Catholic Church never rose from its ruins, and the weak remnant was conquered by the sword of Islâm (670).

Chrysostom made a noble effort to convert the Eastern Goths from Arianism to Catholicity, but his mission ceased after his death (407).

The conversion of the Franks to Catholic christianity and various political circumstances led to the abandonment of Arianism among the other Germanic tribes. The Burgundians who spread from the Rhine to the Rhone and Saone, embraced Catholic Christianity in 517, and were incorporated into the French kingdom in 534. The Suevi who spread from Eastern Germany into France and Spain, embraced the Catholic faith in 550. The Visigoths in Spain, through their king, Reccared the Catholic, subscribed an orthodox creed at the third Council of Toledo, a.d. 589, but the last of the Gothic kings, Roderic, was conquered by the Saracens, breaking into Spain from Africa, in the bloody battle of Xeres de la Frontera, a.d. 711.

The last stronghold of Arianism were the Longobards or Lombards, who conquered Northern Italy (still called Lombardy) and at first persecuted the Catholics. They were converted to the orthodox faith by the wise influence of Pope Gregory I. (590616), and the Catholic queen Theodelinde (d. 625) whose husband Agilulf (590–616) remained Arian, but allowed his son Adelwald to be baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church. An Arian reaction followed, but Catholicism triumphed under Grimoald (662–671), and Liutprand (773–774). Towards the close of the eighth century, Pepin and Charlemagne, in the interest of France and the papacy, destroyed the independence of the Lombards after a duration of about two hundred years, and transferred the greater part of Italy to the Eastern empire and to the Pope. In these struggles the Popes, being then (as they have been ever since) opposed from hierarchical interest to the political unity of Italy, aided the Franks and reaped the benefit.



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